The defiant stand taken by sacked Ford Visteon car component workers at plants in Belfast, Basildon and Enfield marks a turning point in class struggle in Britain.
In Belfast, workers have been occupying their factory for over two weeks. In Basildon, workers are picketing the plant round the clock to stop the KPMG receivers moving out any equipment.
At Enfield, where workers occupied for nine days before coming out last week, they and their supporters held a mass picket on Tuesday morning.
The receivers had hoped to get the 17 workers they had kept on at Enfield into the plant to carry out work needed to prepare the factory for closure.
But only three of these workers showed up and none went in. One person was turned away and the other two stayed and joined the picket.
Union reps from the plants were set to meet Visteon bosses on Wednesday of this week.
“I am hopeful that something will come out of the talks,” said Steve Irving, a sacked worker at Enfield. “But I suspect that they will come up with some offer that isn’t good enough and we’ll have to keep up the pressure.”
The workers were sacked on Tuesday 31 March. They were told their factories were closing and that there was no money for redundancy pay.
The workers refused to put up with this treatment. They are demanding that their factories are either reopened or that at the very least they are given decent redundancy pay.
Steve had worked at the Enfield plant for 17 years. He said, “Most people have been here far longer.
“We’ve had lots of support. I think people see what’s happening here as a bit of a showcase – if we can make a stand here and win then others can too.
Steve has been joining night shifts picketing outside the plant. “If the company thinks we are calming down, they are wrong – we are doing more things. People have been to Ford Dagenham to spread the word.”
The workers were promised Ford terms and conditions for life when Visteon took over the factories in 2000. Many believe that Ford now has a duty to step in.
The workers have shown great determination and there has been a high level of involvement in the fight.
The Belfast occupation was served with an eviction notice on Thursday of last week. When the workers refused to accept it, it was pinned on the factory gate. Mysteriously, it caught fire later the same day.
Workers from all the plants have been organising protests and picketing Ford showrooms to get out their message
They have gone to speak to other groups of workers to appeal directly for support.
Shamefully, their spirit and activism has not been matched by those at the top of their Unite union.
Unite boasts about being the biggest union in Britain. Hundreds of thousands of its members in manufacturing face the sharp end of the recession.
Unite could make a big difference to this dispute.
It should be throwing its resources into the fight – and encouraging action to spread to others, especially those in the car industry.
Visteon car components are still being used by manufacturers across Britain. Car workers should refuse to use these parts.
Wayne Stevens, the deputy Unite convenor at the Basildon plant, told Socialist Worker, “Visteon and Ford should do the right thing and settle this fairly.
“I would ask car workers in any location to back us up.
“Apart from basic solidarity, there is a real threat that what has happened to us could happen to them next. Big companies are using the economic climate to make cuts and sack workers.”
The ongoing fight at Visteon has also transformed the lives of those involved.
“It’s opened my eyes,” Linda Bartell told Socialist Worker.
“I feel like I’ve gone through life with blinkers on – getting on with raising a family and doing the shopping. But now the blinkers have gone.
“People have put themselves out to help us. The kindness that we’ve been shown from all communities hits you in the heart.
“Everyone has helped each other and we’ve lived as a community in the occupation. It’s changed how people relate to each other.
“We weren’t organised when we came in but that soon changed. Whenever I see anyone with a banner or leafleting in the streets now I’ll go and investigate. I won’t just walk past.”
The dispute is proof that people can fight back in a recession. Everyone facing attacks should follow this inspiring example and spread the resistance.